Folger Shakespeare Library, opened in 1932, featured the first replica in North America of an Elizabethan theater, a 250-seat space designed to suggest the innyard playing spaces. Founders Henry Clay and Emily Jordan Folger envisioned it as a place for the performance of the plays in Shakespeare’s style, and the first nationally televised broadcast of a Shakespeare play in the US was Julius Caesar from the Folger stage in 1949. Folger Theatre produces seasons of Shakespeare, other plays from the period of the Folger’s rare collection, and new work, including commissions, inspired by the period, with award-winning stagings of more than 75 percent of Shakespeare’s canon, as well as classical and Restoration work. Folger Theatre has collaborated with the Classical Theatre of Harlem, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Guthrie, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, Third Rail Projects and other theaters across the country. Folger Theatre is the recipient of 30 Helen Hayes Awards including four for Outstanding Resident Production for Sense and Sensibility, The Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet, and Measure for Measure.
Stay up to date with Folger Theatre on Facebook or for further information, visit the Folger Theatre blog, The Folger Spotlight. If you miss a performance, listen to five plays performed by Folger Theatre available as Folger Audio Editions through Simon & Schuster on audio CD or as a download.
About Folger Theatre
Led since 1991 by Artistic Producer Janet Alexander Griffin, Folger Theatre has staged more than half of the plays in Shakespeare’s First Folio.
Highlights from Folger Theatre’s producing history include numerous Helen Hayes Awards nominations and wins. Nominees for outstanding resident play: Sense and Sensibility (2016): recipient, The Taming of the Shrew (Folger Theatre, 2012): recipient, Hamlet (Folger Theatre, 2010): recipient, Henry VIII (Folger Theatre, 2010), Arcadia (Folger Theatre, 2009) Macbeth (Folger Theatre, 2008), Measure for Measure (Folger Theatre, 2006): recipient, The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Folger Theatre, 2004), Melissa Arctic (Folger Theatre, 2004), She Stoops to Conquer (Folger Theatre, 2002), Shakespeare’s R & J (Folger Theatre, 2000), Much Ado About Nothing (Folger Theatre, 1998), and Romeo and Juliet (Folger Theatre, 1997).
In collaboration, Folger Theatre produced with The Classical Theatre of Harlem a sell-out King Lear (Folger Theatre, 2007) starring André DeShields, with Two River Theater Company staged two productions—a magical Macbeth (Folger Theatre, 2008) co-directed by Teller and Aaron Posner and the world premiere of Anne Washburn’s adaptation Orestes, A Tragic Romp (Folger Theatre, 2010)— and with Fiasco Theatre produced The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Fiasco Theater, 2014). Folger Theatre has also partnered with Shakespeare's Globe, London to mount productions of Hamlet (Shakespeare's Globe, 2012), Hamlet (Shakespeare's Globe, 2014), and King Lear (Shakespeare's Globe, 2014).
Exhibitions at the Folger inspire memorable productions like David Garrick’s The Clandestine Marriage (Folger Theatre, 2005), Maxwell Anderson’s Elizabeth the Queen (Folger Theatre, 2003) which starred Michael Learned, and Henry VIII (Folger Theatre, 2010). Cross-disciplinary projects with Folger Consort—such as The Second Shepherds' Play: A Medieval Mystery for the Yuletide Season (2007, 2016), Brave New World: Music of the Tempest (2014), Measure+Dido (2016), and Purcell’s The Fairy Queen (2007) with Sir Derek Jacobi, Richard Clifford, and Lynn Redgrave—take advantage of the Folger’s unique resources. Folger Theatre not only produces Shakespeare’s classics but is also a stage for new plays, including Theresa Rebeck The Way of the World, Texts&beheadings/ElizabethR, the Reduced Shakespeare Company's William Shakespeare's Long Lost First Play (abridged), Roger Rees’ What You Will: By and About the Bard (Folger Theatre, 2007) and Lynn Redgrave’s Shakespeare for My Father (Folger Shakespeare Library, 1991) and Rachel and Juliet: An Evening with Lynn Redgrave (Folger Theatre, 2009).
For more information about the Folger Theatre's performance space, read our article on the Folger's Elizabethan Theatre.
About the Artistic Producer
Janet Alexander Griffin
As Director of Public Programs, Griffin has established Folger Theatre as a home for creative, contemporary approaches to classic theater. She has produced more than 30 seasons of theater, including the majority of Shakespeare’s plays, as well as the work of many other playwrights; more than 1000 concerts of early music; and a like number of other cultural events. Her leadership of Folger Theatre has seen the theater recognized with 159 nominations and 30 awards for excellence from Washington’s Helen Hayes Awards. These include four awards for Outstanding Resident Production, for Sense and Sensibility in 2017. Bard Records, created by Griffin, has released 23 titles of music by Folger Consort and others, and Folger Theatre has seven fully dramatized Shakespeare audio books available through Simon and Schuster. Projects commissioned or developed include Lynn Redgrave’s Shakespeare for My Father and Rachel and Juliet; Measure+Dido, The Fairy Queen and other presentations of Baroque music and Shakespeare with Derek Jacobi, Richard Clifford, and other celebrated artists; Roger Rees’ What You Will; The Second Shepherds’ Play adapted by Mary Hall Surface; Aaron Posner’s District Merchants; Caroline Shaw’s The Tempest; Robert Richmond’s The Gravedigger’s Tale with Louis Butelli; and Confection with Third Rail Projects. She was the first to bring to Washington a Shakespeare’s Globe production and to take Folger programming to London’s Wanamaker Playhouse at the Globe, as well as other venues in Washington, New York, and California. Other Folger programs stewarded by Griffin are the O.B. Hardison Poetry series; screenings from the Royal Shakespeare Company; and lectures and readings by theater professionals, early modern scholars, and contemporary literary figures.
Folger Theatre employs members of Actors' Equity Association, the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, and United Scenic Artists. It is a member of Blue Star Theatres, Cultural Tourism DC, CulturalCapital, theatreWashington, Theatre Communications Group, and Shakespeare Theatre Association.
- A Midsummer Night's Dream July 13 – August 29, 2021
- Nathan The Wise in association with Theater J
- The Tempest in collaboration with Round House Theatre
- The Merry Wives of Windsor January - March, 2020
- Amadeus November - December, 2019
- 1 Henry IV September - October, 2019
- Love's Labor's Lost April - June, 2019
- Confection March, 2019
- Nell Gwynn January - March, 2019
- King John October - December, 2018
- Davenant's Macbeth September, 2018
- Saint Joan May - June, 2018
- The Winters Tale March - April, 2018
- The Way of the World January - February, 2018
- Antony and Cleopatra October - November, 2017
- Timon of Athens May - June, 2017
- As You Like It January - March, 2017
- Sense and Sensibility September - October, 2016
- District Merchants May 31 - July 3, 2016
- William Shakespeare's Long Lost First Play (Abridged) April 21 - May 8, 2016
- A Midsummer Night's Dream January 26 - March 13, 2016
- Pericles November 13 - December 20, 2015
- texts&beheadings/ElizabethR (Compagnia de'Colombari) September 19 - October 4, 2015
- Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead May 12- June 28, 2015
- Mary Stuart January 27- March 8, 2015
- Julius Caesar October 28- December 7, 2014
- King Lear (Shakespeare's Globe) September 5-21, 2014
- Hamlet (Shakespeare's Globe) July 25-26, 2014
- A Midsummer Night's Dream: In Concert May 29-June 1, 2014
- Cymbeline (Fiasco Theater) May 28-June 1, 2014
- The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Fiasco Theater) April 17-May 25, 2014
- Richard III (Folger Theatre, 2014) January 28-March 16, 2014